Ronnie

A few days ago I shared the story of my mom’s friend, Ruthie. She was one heck of a lady and I’m just now beginning to understand how lessons she taught me in my childhood have impacted who I am today. But Ruthie was married for 63 years to Ronnie, and though they were as different as full-flavored Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, they worked in a way that put others in awe. The day I shared about Ruthie (it took me months to write about her) I learned that Ronnie had passed away, and like after Ruth’s passing, the memories of Ronnie came flooding back, one in particular that I needed to share today.

It’s important to know that I didn’t have a father growing up. I have a father, as most of us do, but he was not part of my life. I was the product of a decade-long affair. My father had a wife, and three kids at home, so when I came along he ran scared away from my mother, and by association me. So as a child my idea of a father was loosely based on the other men in my life. On my sisters’ husbands, my Uncle Arthur (whose passing a few years ago still stings too much to deal with) and Ronnie Logan, Ruth’s husband and one of my mom’s closest friends.

Much like Ruth, I came to know Ronnie when he was much older. Ronnie was born in 1932 and I was born in 1981, so he was already an “old man” by the time I was 10 years old. Although 49 isn’t “old” to me anymore, back then it seemed like we were worlds apart. And we would have been, had he not been such a kind, gentle, lovely soul who invested in the people in his family, and for Ronnie his “family” was large. It stretched well beyond his sisters, and wife, and children. It stretched into the community, into his church life, and into my family as well.

When I was 10 years old, my mom and I were at home one early, summer evening and we got a frantic telephone call. I’m not sure who was on the other end. It could have been Ruthie, it could have been Debbie, one of their daughters and one of my mom’s best friends. But someone from the Logan family urgently called to tell my mother that Ronnie had been shot.

Leavenworth is a small town. And Ronnie and Ruth were well-known, though possibly for different reasons. Ronnie owned a drywall business, and he and his sons worked hard everyday hanging drywall, and painting, and doing whatever else they needed to do to get by. They weren’t rich, but any stretch of the imagination, but Ronnie was well-liked and respected in the community. So it came as a shock to hear that Ronnie had been shot by someone, and in the alley behind his own home, which was on the corner of a very busy intersection near downtown Leavenworth.

My mother and I hopped into her 1972 Dodge, and raced over to the house. By the time we got there, Ronnie was already at the hospital, but a few of the Logan clan were handing out in the back yard, discussing what had happened with the police. Ronnie’s truck was still parked, half in the grass, half in the alleyway, and his door was open. I walked as close as I could to the truck, wondering, scared, what Ronnie was going through at that moment. Worried, more than anything, that I would never see him again. There was blood on the bench seat. Tempers were high with the Logans. Emotions palpable. Neighbors were standing in the alley in disbelief in what they had just witnessed. The warm, summer sun was casting streaks of orange and pink down on the house at the corner of Fourth and Pine.

I was just a kid, so I can’t be too sure about the logistics of what had happened, though more was said in front of me than probably should have been said. I remember it was a neighbor who’d shot him. I remember the neighbor was drunked-up, and mad at no one in particular, just drunk and angry and waving a gun around. I remember there was a dog, maybe Ronnie was attacked by the dog first, maybe there was yelling, though it’s hard for me to imagine Ronnie yelling at anyone. I don’t remember the logistics, just the fear. If this could happen to Ronnie, this could happen to anyone in our community.

Ronnie ended up being fine. He was shot in the leg or arm, or some part of him that required very little medical attention, and he was in and then back out of the hospital. The neighbor was released from jail. I don’t know if Ronnie pressed charges, but I know the neighbor moved shortly after. One night, a few weeks later I was sitting on the front porch, listening to Ronnie discuss the incident with a friend, when he said something I never thought I’d hear someone who had just been shot say. He said, “Of course I forgive him.” My mouth went agape. How could you forgive someone who had shot you? I thought maybe I misheard. I went inside and told my mom. She smiled and said, “Well of course Ronnie forgives him. Ruthie, well, that’s another story. Go on outside and play now, no more eavesdropping.” And so I did.

Now here I am, 28 years later, still wondering about the capacity of forgiveness. Wondering how Ronnie was able to do it, and so quickly. Still in awe of the capacity of his humility and his heart. His generosity and his humbleness. Wishing I had inherited that from a man that wasn’t my father, but was the closest thing I ever had to one.

We hear a lot these days about people who have worked hard and made their way in this world, reaching back and helping others along. It’s a noble thing, and there is no nobler a man I can think of from my childhood, than Ronnie Logan. Ronnie was reaching back years ago, pulling up the downtrodden, helping in some small way, whether with a ride to wherever they were going, or a couple bucks for gas. What little Ronnie had, he came by honestly, and he was happy to share. Just as he was happy to share the word of God, always willing to pray for or with you, but always allowing you to come to your own conclusions in the end. 

Ronnie’s steadfast, generous nature gave him another gift we should let his life teach us, the gift of forgiveness. He forgave the people who had wronged him in his life. He forgave the people who didn’t take his advice, the people he had to pick up, time and time again. And most importantly he forgave himself for mistakes that he made, and he learned to make amends. A feat I wish we all had the power to do.

Thank you, Ronnie for teaching me all that you did. I hope that wherever you are now, that you are happy, healthy, and playing the guitar for all those people you’ve helped, loved, and forgiven. Play on! 

Missy

William R. “Ronnie” Logan

Ballerina Confession

When I was about five years old, I desperately wanted to be a ballerina. I watched a cartoon, I can’t recall now, where a little girl was dancing with her dog. She was in a pink tutu and ballet slippers, and she was spinning around and around in a circle. My grandfather was alive at the time and living in our small apartment with us. He was fighting terminal cancer, though I didn’t know what that meant, and he was wheel-chair bound, with one arm already lost to the disease.

He sat, day in and day out, in his wheel chair, or in the big, brown chair in our living room with the wooden arms. He sat and he watched television, whatever was on, though he had his favorites, like Price is Right. My mom would cook breakfast, and lunch, and dinner for my grandpa and me. She would wheel him into the kitchen to eat. She would wheel him into the bathroom, move him from the chair to the toilet. She would bathe him. My sister and my mother would carry him up the flight of stairs from our basement apartment to get fresh air on nice days. I would watch television with him. That was my job.

The day we watched the spinning girl and her loyal dog, I jumped up and pretended to be her. I danced around my grandfather, whose toothless grin gave me the confidence to spin on my toes. He clapped his hands and told me I should be a ballerina. I agreed with a smile.

Then in the spring my grandfather died.

In the summer my neighbor said I was too fat to be a ballerina.

In the fall, we moved to a new house, I started kindergarten, and forgot about my dream.

I’ve done that from time to time. Forgotten about a dream. A goal. I’ve let people tell me what I’m capable of, and what I am not. I’ve been doing it again, as of late. Letting strangers, mostly, tell me what I am capable of and what I am not. What my limits of talent are. Where my lane is, and how I should best stay in it. We fall back into old patterns. We do what feels most comfortable. What we learned as children. How we learned to cope.

It’s only human nature.

M.

This Explains So Much

Last time I visited Leavenworth, I went through my mom’s photo albums and took pictures of photos that I wanted to remember, either because they sparked a memory, or because they were too absurd to pass up. I’ve been going through these old pictures, which is sometimes scary because I never know what memories will surface from them. Like, will it be a good memory? Will it teach me about who I am? Or will it make me cringe? If a picture from my childhood makes me cringe, I simply jot that feeling down so I remember to talk to my therapist about it. She just loves a good challenge. Anyway, today I looking for a very specific picture for another post I am working on, when I came across this photo instead:

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot going on here. Let me break it down for you. My best guess on the year is 1987. That would make me about six-years-old, my older sister Belinda about sixteen-years-old maybe seventeen, depending on whether this photo was taken before or after July 10th. That’s a crapshoot. It’s obviously summer. I’m not holding any poppers, or snakes, or smoke balls, but that doesn’t mean much. Still could have been near the 4th of July.

My sister is the one standing next to me by the picnic table and the girl on the lounge, I think, is Shane. Shane was one of my sister’s friends, and aside from knowing that Shane drove a truck and had a boyfriend who once showed up at our house in the middle of the night to ask my mom if she would hold $10,000 cash for him for a few days, I don’t remember much about her. I do remember holding the $10,000 cash in my hands when my mom called me into the utility closet, closed the door, and asked me if I wanted to hold $10,000 cash to see what it felt like. I think I may have buried my lead.

My mom has to be the one taking the picture. I know this because suddenly I’m all too aware of what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the one and only time we ever attempted to go camping.

It had to have been Shane’s idea. Had to have been. Or maybe something Shane and my sister cooked up together while they were drinking Boone’s Farm, and chain smoking Marlboro Lights in the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot after my sister got off work. Why my mom and I were brought along, I can’t say. Shane was the only one with a working vehicle, unless this was that short time when my sister had that big land yacht with the dead-body trunk she bought off an old guy for $200. Who knows.

But I do remember with clarity now, that there was a tent. And a BBQ grill. We ate hot dogs. We sat in tall, itchy grass. Or probably just I did, maybe on a blanket, the adults had chairs. I remember my mom dousing me with that bottle of OFF on the table there, and her being overly anxious about the trash bag hanging off the table because of bears. I remember that my sister told her we didn’t have bears in Kansas. But she wasn’t convinced. And neither was I.

The orange bottle on the table is either lighter fluid or suntan lotion. Pretty sure that’s a bottle of drinking water on the seat of the table. Or maybe bathing water. Or washing your hands water. Or pouring over your privates after you peed water. It was probably for all of that.

At some point when I asked if I could swim in the lake, everyone yelled “NO!” all at once. I was allowed, however, to walk into the lake for a little bit, up to my ankles maybe? And then later my mother told me about one time when Belinda almost drowned in a lake and OMIGOD! That’s why I was terrified of water and a full-grown adult before I was taught how to swim. This explains so much.

Later, after the tent was set up, the campfire was roaring, and the stars were out and beautiful, I drifted off to sleep in a little pallet in the tent, only to be violently shaken awake about 2:00 am and told that we had to go home. Everyone had had enough of camping and my sister needed her own bed and toilet.

Yep, that was the one time my family attempted camping when I was a child. I’d call it a success.

M.

Thoughts in the Car Line

Some of you may remember, from my earlier days, that I did a regular little ditty called, Thoughts in the Car Line wherein I waxed intellectual on a number of topics while I waited to pick Jackson up from school. At the beginning of my years in the car line I was always very early so I could be up near the front, which is in fact, a total waste of time. BUT, I did get a lot of writing and reading done in those times, and they will always be fond memories for me. Still confused? Let me show you a bit of what I mean with some classic Thoughts in the Car Line Moments:

  • I think Jon Bon Jovi lived on more than a prayer. Cocaine, y’all. He lived on cocaine. 
  • I bet I’d run more efficiently on cocaine. 
  • We’d all run more efficiently on cocaine. 
  • I’m not sure if the family behind me doesn’t enjoy my dancing or if they just hate Dwight Yoakam in general. 
  • There are men out here “surveying”. I keep yelling, “Hey, why don’t y’all come survey this” and then I pull my shirt down really low, but they just don’t seem interested. It must be the sports bra. 
  • This guy looks like he might be named Eddie.
  • Maybe I shouldn’t harass men? 
  • I dunno. I’m so conflicted y’all. It’s like, cocaine is bad, but then it’s good. 
  • What if Mumford doesn’t even have any sons and it’s all a damn lie?
  • I used to like Eddie Murphy. I thought he made a great donkey, but then he got all high and mighty and I was kind of like, you know what Eddie Murphy, I’m done with you. But I still like Donkey.
  • Butyraceous: Of the nature of resembling or containing butter. New stage name. Missy “Butyraceous” Goodnight. One woman act. I roll in butter while I scream “Suck it, Paula Dean!” Tickets can be purchased at Food Lion for $5 and one pound of butter.  
  • I’m not a scientist, but I feel what I lack in common sense I make up for by drinking copious amounts of wine. 
  • “I have a dancer’s body. In the trunk.” That would be a good bumper sticker. 
  • Some parents suck. Some are great. And some listen to Rod Stewart.
  • It snowed in North Carolina the other day and my mom called from Kansas to tell me that she saw Dale Earnhardt and he said not to drive on the roads, and I didn’t know if she meant that she saw the ghost of Dale Earnhardt or if she ran into Jr. at the Walmarts and he told her to tell me that the roads in North Carolina were bad, but I decided it could go either way, and everyone knows you should always trust a ghost who wants to share traffic advisories.  
  • How many raisins can I fit into my mouth?
  • 32. I fit 32 raisins in my mouth. 
  • I ate Jackson’s snack. It was raisins. 
  • If you’ve never bought a comforter from TJ Maxx are you even an adult?

As you can see, they get pretty intense. Luckily for you guys, I got to Jackson’s school a bit early to pick him up from Robotics practice the other day, and I created a new list of thoughts in the car line. No need to thank me, your kindness to each other is thanks enough.

Thoughts in the Car Line:

  • Does Santa drink egg nog every morning? Like does he just get up and dab a little bit in his coffee, then think, you know what I’m just gonna take a little sip straight out the bottle, then he takes a little nip and before he knows it he drank a bottle of egg nog? Then an hour later, when he’s laying over the toilet feeling like he bout to vomit, Mrs. Clause walks in and she’s all, “Sonofabitch, Kris, I told you not to drink a whole bottle of egg nog again. Christ, you need to be at the shop in a tight fifteen!” And he can’t look up from the commode, so he just makes little noises to himself and his white hair starts to fall from around his face, kinda dip into the water a little bit. Then she starts to get all sad that he lacks willpower and self-control, so she sits on her old, creaky knees on the heated bathroom tile next to him, and starts to rub his back in a half-hearted attempt to burp him, while he cries into the toilet bowl, and she remembers the man in college named Damien Demancus who offered her a life of luxury on his boat docked at the Margaritaville in Key West, and she sighs a little to herself. Is that, umm, probably what happens?
  • I’ve never been to Key West. I want to go, but I’m also scared to go. Cause I have been to Miami. And I have been to the Bahamas. And I sort of feel like Key West is a mixture of the two places. And I didn’t like either of them THAT much. So…
  • I think I just tooted, but like inside my intestines. That was weird.
  • There’s a Margarittaville in Tennessee. It’s over yonder by the Dollywood. I’m sure there is more than one Margarittaville in Tennessee. I just haven’t seen them all. But there are people who have. And those people are named Ricky. Not Richard. Ricky.
  • Do elves brush their teeth? All that sugar! I hope so.
  • One time on a cruise ship, we were at sea for two days because we were going from Puerto Rico to some island way the fuck out there and I had nothing to do so I went to the casino and taught myself how to play roulette. Then I taught Jackson how to play. He was in second grade. Rules are lax in the ocean. We won $700. Then we lost $900. Then I got pissed off, cause I was obviously drunk, and I threw my gin and tonic at Red #32 because I thought it was evil. But I think Jackson learned a valuable lesson: Always go find Daddy when Mommy forces him into a casino in second grade.
  • “We can’t go on together, with suspicious miiiiiinds…”
  • I wonder if they’d let me into Tyler Perry Studios? Worth a shot. Helllller!
  • Do I need to make banners for the robotics competition? And bring a megaphone? Or is it not that kinda deal? What about a charcuterie board? There’s always time for a charcuterie board.
  • Jackson can now play Jingle Bells on his trumpet. But I can play Mary Had a Little Lamb on a touchtone phone, so, who’s the real musician?

M.

Wescoe Hall

I’m trying to remember a teacher I had at The University of Kansas a long time ago, but I keep getting jammed up. I can see the classroom. It’s one of those basement classrooms that old universities have. It was in Wescoe Hall, across from the library, where I spent too many hours walking the stacks. Listening to the birds who’d come in through, what, an open window? I can remember the stacks. I can remember the moldy classroom. And the birds. I can even remember the kid who sat behind me. People thought he was cool because he’d been a walk-on to the KU football team that year. Of course this was back when KU football was consistently on the highlight reel for “Horrible pass of the week” or “Too many sacks in a row”. Back then, when you said “Kansas football” you weren’t talking about the Jayhawks.

So it’s the particulars I’m jammed up on. I guess. I know she was young, not a professor. That she was blond, and that she had large breasts. I’m not so sure about the blond, but the breasts, those I’m sure about. They were so large, that at 18, I felt both inadequate and sufficiently aroused. This was before I knew how to buy a good bra, based on my size and shape. This was back before areas of my brain and body had fully developed. Back before I could recognize deliberate flirtation. Her areas were fully developed.

The red-headed walk-on yammered on a lot. Spoke in small sentences about things not found on the syllabus. I wondered how many times he’d been hit in the head. He’d yammer on about video games and metaphysical anomalies. He wrote short stories about aliens. He picked his nose sometimes, when he thought no one was looking. I wrote bad poetry. The kind of poetry that 18-year-old girls with virtually no life skills or relatable experience, write about. I hadn’t yet had my heart broken. He’d yammer. I’d write, and steal glances at the teacher’s breasts. She’s ask him to stop. Tell him to leave it for another time. He’d smile. She’d smile. Or at least I assume she smiled. I still can’t picture her face.

The birds in the stacks would flutter above my head. Jump from bookshelf to bookshelf. Was someone feeding them, I wonder now. Did they routinely flush them out? I wonder about the birds a lot, the birds stuck in the stacks.

Maybe it was the breasts. The reason I can’t remember her face. Can’t remember much of it. If I close my eyes, think back to my first semester, that’s all I can remember. The stacks. The red-headed walk-on. The moldy classroom at Wescoe Hall. The birds.

I wonder, now, what happened to the red-headed walk-on. How birds got into the stacks. If they’d lay eggs in nests above the harsh overhead lighting. I wonder, now, how the babies learned to fly, surrounded by bookshelves, and dumb freshmen looking for Kafka. I wonder why I fought so hard and so long against higher education. I wonder, now, who my teacher was in that moldy classroom at Wescoe Hall.

M.

The Tinsleys

When I was a kid my mom cleaned houses for a living. One of the houses she cleaned belonged to a husband and wife named Mr. and Mrs. Tinsley. The Tinsleys were very retired, and lived in a large house in Leavenworth, near the public library. I’m not sure what they had done in their working lives, but Mr. Tinsley, who sat in his home office all day, smoking cigars, and swiveling around in an old wooden rolling chair, had the mark of a lawyer, or maybe a CPA. He wore suspenders, and used a cane, on the rare occasions that I saw him get up from his desk.

Mrs. Tinsley could have been a school teacher, or a stay-at-home mom, or even a piano instructor. Maybe she was all those things. Maybe she was none of those things, I just don’t know, I don’t remember ever asking. What I do remember is sitting on the steps that connected the family room with the second level, while my mom vacuumed the upstairs bedrooms, and watching Jeopardy with Mrs. Tinsley, while she sat across the room in a recliner, and offered me fistfuls of those hard strawberry candies, with the gooey centers.

Mrs. Tinsely loved Bill Clinton. Mr. Tinsley hated him. Mrs. Tinsley crouched doilies and read magazines. Mr. Tinsely yelled at the Meals on Wheels delivery woman, and wrote my mother checks every Tuesday afternoon for her services.

Their house was in a row of houses on their street that were all very old. Some had started to fall down, while others were being bought and remodeled. Their house was somewhere in the middle, in dire need of updating, but still working for the two of them. Regardless, they had a formal living room, which I always associated with “rich people,” and I liked to spend a lot of time sitting in the “fancy” chairs in there, reading teeny-bopper magazines, and watching out the big picture window.

Their house even had a large wrap-around porch on the front, with a couple of rocking chairs. Somedays I would pass the two hours or so rocking on their porch. At the end of the street there was a house that had been turned into a retirement home. Or maybe it was less of a retirement home, and more of a nursing home. It had a lot of people in wheel chairs, sitting outside when we pulled up, and in the exact same spot when we left. I often wondered who pushed them out there, and who brought them back in. I hoped someone brought them back in.

It was an interesting dichotomy, trying to figure out how those people at the end of the street, sitting alone all day in wheelchairs in the grass, who were relatively the same age as The Tinsleys, managed to find themselves there, rather than living in their own large home, with a woman who cleaned it for them once a week, and people who delivered their food everyday. It didn’t add up to me, and if I’m being honest, it still doesn’t. Though it’s certainly more sad now, because I’m older and I know what I know. Still…

One of the last times I remember going to The Tinsleys’ my mom asked me to take a bag of trash out back for her. I didn’t usually do much helping when she cleaned houses, but every once in awhile she would ask me to take some trash out, or wipe down a mirror or something menial, particularly if I was following her around being annoying. This day I had the bag of trash in my hand and I walked out the back door, down a few steps, and out the back of the fence to the alley where the trash cans sat. I heaved the trash bag over the fence, into the can, when something shiny caught my eye.

Down the alley was an older woman, with a walker, slowly making her way toward me. She was dressed in sweats, and a shirt that looked like it had been worn for days. She was saying something but I couldn’t understand her. The more I waited, the closer she came, the closer she got to me, I realized she was calling for something, or someone. I wasn’t sure what to do so I sort of just froze at the fence, nervously looking back at the Tinsley’s house, hoping my mom would come out. Before she got any closer to me a woman dressed in scrubs came running down the alley after the woman with the walker. She ran up behind the woman, and put her hand on her shoulder. This scared the woman, and the nurse assured her she was okay, then told her they needed to go back in. The nurse saw me then, and told me that the woman was looking for her missing cat. I was immediately upset for her, and told the nurse that I hadn’t seen a cat, but that I would keep an eye out. The nurse just smiled, and waved my suggestion away, “There’s no cat,” she said, and she put her arm around the woman and they walked slowly back to the house at the end of the street.

Later that night when I told my mom what I had seen, she told me that some people forget things when they get older. What the nurse likely meant, was that the woman was looking for a cat she had once had, probably years and years ago, back when she lived in her own house. This was hard for me to understand at the time, but now, of course, I do.

I’m not sure what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Tinsley, I have a faint memory of my mother telling me of their passing at some point in my teen years, but I always wondered about them. And I’ve often wondered about the woman in the alley searching for her lost cat. I suppose I always will, because if you ask me, we all have our cats we are looking for. And we always will.

M.

Field Day, 2019

Today has been a busy day, and it isn’t even lunch time yet! Whew! We were up at ’em at 5:30 this morning to take Mama to the airport. (She landed safely in Kansas City at 10:00 am), then we got back to Tucker, dropped Jackson off to school, and Jerimiah and I had a nice, quiet breakfast at Matthews Cafeteria. Then it was back to school to participate in Field Day. Well, participate is a stretch, as we were just spectators. It was also the first Field Day that I didn’t volunteer to work! It was amazing to be able to move from activity to activity and not be stuck at a damn sno-cone machine, or in this case, the apple slices station! But bless the mommies and daddies who did it!

It was a fun, old-fashioned field day too! Complete with a balloon pop (of which Jerimiah and I did end up working because it takes all hands on deck for that one), a three-legged race, a relay race, and the parachute! Oh the parachute! As soon as we walked into the cafeteria to watch them with the parachute I was transported. All the way back to my elementary days at Anthony Elementary School. Back, back, way back, to Mr. Hendee and the bouncing parachute. It was just what I needed to see.

Jackson’s class was steady in second place for all the activities (there are three fifth grade classes), and when the kids were telling us that was okay, the Spanish teacher at the school overheard and whispered to Jerimiah and me, “Well this class may have taken second, but they are always FIRST in behavior. Man, this is a good class!” We beamed, cause yeah, we saw it with our own eyes. I told Jerimiah later that I felt lucky to have Jackson in such a good class, and he laughed and reminded me that it wasn’t luck. It was hard work in parenting to get our kid into the classes that he is in. It’s kinda neat having a kiddo that all the teachers want in their class. (Excuse me while I pat us on the back…) And honestly, there are a lot of “Jacksons” in his class. That’s why they took second so many times. They went slow and steady. Even in the three-legged race, when some of the other classes had kids sorta pulling their partners along, Jackson’s class was slow and measured. “This is what happens when you have a group of perfectionists,” Jackson’s teacher whispered to us. It was super cute to watch.

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the morning. It was a bit chilly down here, so some of the activities (most of them) were inside because y’all, Georgia kids cannot handle 50 degree temps! 🙂

Here’s to fun, old-fashioned field days!

M.